The Best Therapy Dogs Revealed

Just as many breeds wouldn’t cut it as service dogs, not every pup is meant to be a therapy dog. “Therapy dogs are dogs who go with their owners to volunteer in settings such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes,” says American Kennel Club (AKC) Family Dog Director Mary Burch. “From working with a child who is learning to read to visiting a senior in assisted living, therapy dogs and their owners work together as a team to improve the lives of other people.”

Good therapy dogs like people and have the basic training needed to result in a dog that is under control, says Burch. They should also know some therapy-specific skills such as “Leave it” and “Go say hello.” Most good therapy dogs are social and biddable.

Here, Burch shares a round-up of breeds that have the personality and trainability to excel at therapy work.

#1 Borzoi: 

Photo: bigstock_ A.Chernyavskaya

Because of their intelligence, independence, and keen sense of awareness, you’ll see Borzois working as loyal psychiatric assistance dogs, helping veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Borzois have a calm, agreeable temperament that lends itself very well to all kinds of therapy work.

#2 Spinone Italiano:

Photo: bigstock/quayside

The Spinone Italiano excels at therapy work because of its sociable, docile nature. This breed loves being with people.

#3  Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:

Photo: bigstock/cynoclub

Cavaliers make wonderful therapy dogs due to their sweet, gentle nature. They are friendly, easily trainable companions.

#4  Poodle:

Photo: bigstock/Linas T

Poodles are practically made for therapy work. They are extremely smart, eager-to-please, and highly trainable. They like to work closely with their owners.

#5 Labrador Retriever:

Photo: shutterstock/Dora Zett

Labs are famously friendly and outgoing. They’re intelligent and willing to please, making them easily trainable. They’re sociable dogs that love being with people.

#6  Leonberger: 

Photo: shutterstock/Angela Buser

Typically calm, stable, and sociable, Leonbergers make good therapy dogs. They have a gentle, patient nature.

#7 Bichon Frise:

Photo: shutterstock/Eve Photography

The Bichon Frise has a wonderful personality. The breed is known for its cheerful, playful, social nature, and is meant to be a companion.

#8  Australian Shepherd: 

Photo: bigstock/cynoclub

Aussies are extremely smart, versatile, and trainable. They have a ton of mental drive and physical stamina which can be channeled into many different types of jobs, therapy work being one of them.

#9 Golden Retriever:

Photo: bigstock/zelenenka

The Golden Retriever’s intelligence, working ability, and eager-to-please attitude make it excellent at therapy work. Their friendly, outgoing temperament helps them connect very well with people.

#10 Papillon:

Photo: bigstock/A.Chernyavskaya

The Papillon is a happy, friendly dog. They are less yappy and more easily trained than other toy breeds, making them great for therapy work.

This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!


Dogify Your Inbox

Sign up for the FREE Modern Dog Magazine newsletter & get the best of Modern Dog delivered to your inbox.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

By clicking the arrow, you agree to our web Terms of Use and Privacy & Cookie Policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.